Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Harvesting: What You Need to Know

By ur Rehman, Ikhlaq | Library Philosophy and Practice, January 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Harvesting: What You Need to Know


ur Rehman, Ikhlaq, Library Philosophy and Practice


Introduction

Online Social Networks (OSNs) have turned out to be one of the most important means of communication for human beings in present times. OSNs such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, to name as few, which have become one of the significant stages for social cooperation, such as, developing relationship, sharing individual experiences, and lending different services. Social network penetration worldwide is ever increasing. In 2017, 71% of the internet users were social network users which accounted for 2.46 billion users. In 2019, the estimated number will be around 2.76 billion (Statista,2019). With the growth of OSNs privacy concerns have increased due to personal data shared online. Although, OSNs are deployed with privacy control mechanisms that protect user's private information from outside world. However, these privacy mechanisms can't still protect user's sensitive information from being getting leaked (Li, Li, Yan and Deng, 2015) The most widely used OSW is Facebook with 2.2 billion monthly active users in July, 2018(Statista,2018). Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO advocates that Facebook's motive is to provide a communal service which clearly reflects on their homepage: "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life". Facebook was founded in the year 2004 and since then it has grown into a billion-dollar industry with present worth of $541.5 Billion (Forbes,2018). Pundits claim that Facebook takes advantage of its members and their social networks by exposing them to commercialization which raises concerns about users' right to privacy. They are of the opinion that Facebook privacy policies are often complex and lengthy and are mostly driven by profit motive (Lilley, Grodzinsky and Gumbus, 2012). Most popular applications on Facebook Inc. have been allowing access to people's names, communicating identifying information, and in some cases, their friend's names to numerous advertising and internet tracking companies. This puts tens of millions of Facebook user's privacy under risk including the ones who set their profiles to Facebook's strictest privacy settings. This puts a question mark on Facebook's ability to keep identifiable information about their user's activities secure. Even though Facebook doesn't allow application makers transmitting data about users to outside companies even if a user agrees but some of its applications such as FarmVille, Texas HoldEm poker and FrontierVille have been found of transmitting user information to outside companies. Several applications that were communicating personal information were taken down. However, the actual reason for their unavailability still remains doubtful. (Steel and Fowler, 2010). Recently the biggest Facebook data scandal came into the limelight where data from millions of users who used a popular personality application had been compromised by leaving it exposed online for anyone to access. The data for the personality quiz application myPersonality was distributed by academics at the University of Cambridge to hundreds of researchers via a website which lacked security measures, which led to it being left open to illegal access for four years (Waterfield and Revel,2018).However, the most appalling thing was the fact that the firms had collected information not only of the users who had agreed to share their information with these services, but also anyone who was Facebook friends with those people. In early 2018 it became public knowledge that information of millions of Facebook users had been harvested by many firms including Cambridge Analytica (Facebook Data Breach Essay,2018) This work is an attempt to provide the insights of the Facebook data harvesting that is what data was harvested, how it was harvested, who harvested it and how was the harvested data was used.

myPersonality app

The myPersonality app was created by David Stillwell in 2007 at the Psychometrics Centre in the University of Cambridge. …

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